Basic Music Theory

Hey fellow musicians… Ron Greene here,

There are a lot of decent basic music theory books, tapes etc. on the market these days, and many of them provide good technical content. However, most of the information in them seems to lack specific details that otherwise, really never get you to the point of playing your instrument.

For example, music theory publications do a good job of explaining Key Signatures and the history of music, yet, these subjects might not interest you as much as getting your instrument out and actually getting down to the matter at hand… playing it!

I’ve been playing musical instruments since 1963. Around 1987 I discovered something very interesting… a large ‘gap’ in music theory lessons and instructional programs. I could not locate any products on the market that would support my ability to grow with my instruments in an easy format.

So… what did I do?… I spent the late 80’s mind-storming ways to come up with an idea that would assist existing and beginning musicians with the ability to quickly and easily expand on ones musical skills, while making music theory fun at the same time.

Rhythm Guitar Music DialPrototype after prototype emerged. For three years straight my basement looked like something from Frankenstein meets Thomas Edison. Always looking for better ways to understand and apply musical insights. Then, in 1991 I finally hit on the idea of the Music Dials. After years of experimentation the inspirational flash I was searching for streaked across my brain in an instant. All of my prototypes came together in that moment. The thought of having “all” references to music theory… like: chord structures, melodic notes, scales, all-in-one hand held device (dial) was born! Hence the Music Dial.

Recently, an associate of mine recorded me talking about how the Music Dial relates (among other musical techniques) to basic music theory. If your interested, give it a listen… it’s only 4 minutes in length.

Listen to the mp3 music theory interview here
What I’ve tried to deliver in the development and construction of the Music Dials, is the ability to provide you with a means to show you the forms, (scale and chord positions) on your fret-board for string instruments – and keyboard locations for piano players, visually, right in front of you.

You’ll immediately notice a difference in how you learn music theory using the Music Dials. It’s what I call “implied” or “applied” music theory. Meaning, while you play your instrument you are consciously and sub- consciously learning insightful basic music theory information, naturally. And indeed, your having the enjoyment of playing your instrument at the same time.

Keyboard Music TheoryAll songs are played in a key. Most songs for most styles can be played using only 8 chords for accompaniment and 6 scales for melodies or solos in each key. My Music Dials instantly show you the chords & scales you need in each key. The 8 chords in each key you should and will know…

The 6 common chords come from the major scale notes in each key and are called scale tone chords (I = do, IIm = re, IIIm = mi, IV = fa, V = so, VIm = la).
The 2 optional chords (bIII, bVII), commonly used for rock & blues, come from the flatted third and flatted seventh (notes of the major scale and can also be used to play songs in each key.)

Except for jazz, most songs use only major, minor and seventh chords and these are the basic chords you should learn in each key. Experiment with and have fun playing, creating or improvising great sounding chord progressions in each key.

There are four chord types: major, minor, augmented, diminished. There are many extensions of these chord types including: suspended, fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords. Chord formulas define which major scale notes are contained in the chord (1 = do, 2 = re,3 = mi, 4 = fa, 5 = so, 6 = la, 7 = ti). Below are the formulas for the 4 chord types and their extensions:

The specific scale you use to play solo in each key depends on the type of sound you want to create. Here are the 6 most commonly used scales including 2 for “melodic” sounding solos, 2 for “blues” sounding solos and 2 for various other sounding solos.

Music Dial Learning DeviceScale formulas define which major scale notes are contained in the scale (1 = do, 2 = re, 3 = mi, 4 = fa, 5 = so, 6 = la, 7 = ti).

The Music Dial instantly shows the formulas for the 6 scales, making music theory easy to learn as a natural relationship to your musical instrument playing.

I hope this section has shed some light on music theory and how the Music Dials could assist with your resolve to play better, whether you are a guitar player, bass guitar player, Keyboard player, mandolin or banjo player, or any instrument for that matter (like horns, etc.).

I look forward to providing more tips on playing better musically with your instrument(s) in all of our following blog postings. Let’s venture into how “Playing by Ear” soon, as it relates to playing music.

Have a great musical day!
Ron Greene

Oh… here’s an “intro to the Music Dials” video for your reference.

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